Pictured is one of two cylindrical parcels I took to the post office last week. Each contained a kitty toy for friends’ cats. Rather than wrap them in any old thing, I thought I’d do the right thing and provide properly packaged parcels that the post office would appreciate. One parcel made it as far as Annecy after four working days (La Poste has a tracking system on items sent around France: this item is not going to Annecy) and one made it to my letter box. The reason? Cylinders are not allowed to be posted anymore. So how did one get through? The post office man, upon seeing the parcels last week, explained that they roll, making it hard to scan the postcode. He said it wasn’t a problem for overseas items, but that the cylinder going to France would need to have chunks added to it to stop it from rolling. He even offered to do it — what a nice man. I thanked him after asking if he was sure and he said no problems – it was quiet and he was bored. Clearly, the parcel for overseas was a problem as that was the one that ended up back at my door.
Thinking the mix-up was purely down to someone reading the sender address instead of the destination address, I took the item back to the post office. The goth lady was working instead so I explained that the post office had accidentally sent the item back to me and could it please be resent. No, not now, she said. It cannot be sent while it is a cylinder. She said I would need to change the shape so it wouldn’t roll. I asked if I could just drop it off after I’d made the manual change (thinking at the time it would have been easier just to do a bodge job with some bubble wrap and brown paper). She said no because I’d need to pay for it again. Er what? The postage was already more than the cost of the cat toy and she wanted me to pay again? The man last week accepted it so how was this my fault? She agreed but wouldn’t budge. It might only be a small amount of money, but it’s not the amount in question: it’s the way La Poste want me to pay for their mistake and inflexibility. The country renowned for its red tape really does live up to its reputation at times. Outstandingly bad for something as simple as sending a cat toy to a friend.
Thankfully, I’m going to England this weekend, so if I don’t see the man who served me last week before then to hassle him about it, I’ll take the package back with me. Extremely frustrated, I spouted off about it to friends. These are the reactions I got in just one afternoon:
1. French friend: “Yes, it’s stupid. I’ve lived with it all my life so I don’t know any different. I’m used to it. I can’t be angry.”
2. Australian friend: “Remember the string story! Parcel packaged up old style, brown paper with string. Post lady says no, string is ‘interdit’ (not allowed) but then 2 seconds later says yes it’s okay, it’ll just cost more!!! How is this possible? I said, you choose it’s either interdit or it’s not.”
3. American friend: “French customs held all of my household goods from the US ‘hostage’ and tried to make me pay 19.5% tax on stuff that I already OWNED…like my grandmother’s china….until my French boyfriend called them up and said, ‘This is France, not Nigeria’.”
4. British friend: “We were on holiday in Hossegor, sent a parcel to California, recorded, & guess what when we got back home (Bozel) it was waiting here! We took it to La Poste in Bozel & they said we had to go to the post office where it was sent from 700km to get our money back!!!!”